This Week in the Watershed

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Fairness is a principle that virtually everyone endorses. Synonyms for fairness include justice, equality, and impartiality. These virtues are at the foundation of an ethical, righteous, and moral society. When fairness isn't present, people tend to get angry, feeling they have been exploited, abused, and manipulated. With this backdrop, we can't help but look at how poultry litter is handled in Maryland and come to one conclusionit's not fair.

Currently, large poultry companies require farmers who grow the chickens under contract to dispose of the birds' litter at their own expense. Taxpayers also help foot the bill, with subsidies provided to the small farmers to transport some of the manure. Meanwhile, the massive poultry companies making record profits are getting off scot-free.

This week the Poultry Litter Management Act was introduced with the support of more than 50 legislators. The bill would require poultry companies to take responsibility for manure produced by their chickens. Farmers would still be able to keep and use any manure for which they have a state-approved plan.

The consequences of excess poultry litter are severe. While some manure can be applied to fields as fertilizer, many of the fields are over-saturated with phosphorus, and the excess nutrients runoff into local rivers and streams, ultimately reaching the Bay. The Maryland Department of Agriculture recently estimated about 228,000 tons of excess manure are currently applied to crop fields in Maryland.

These excess nutrients cause algae blooms that threaten public health; harm aquatic life like blue crabs, oysters, and fish; and create an enormous "dead zone" in the Bay. Throughout Maryland, residents and businesses are making sacrifices to help clean our waters. Stormwater management fees help fund upgrades to stormwater treatment plants and reduce polluted runoff, homeowners and businesses reduce runoff through installing rain barrels, and dog owners "scoop the poop," as a shining example to Maryland poultry companies. As Senator Richard S. Madaleno stated, "Everyone must do their part to mitigate pollution into our state's iconic natural treasure." We couldn't agree more.

Tell your elected leaders today that you support the Poultry Litter Management Act—and they should, too.

This Week in the Watershed: Poultry Poop, Dead Fish, and Crab Pot$$$

  • Maryland has lost $1 million in federal funding for oyster restoration due to the delay in the Tred Avon oyster restoration project. The Hogan Administration inexplicably asked for the project to be delayed in late 2015. The loss of funding also puts in jeopardy federal funding for future years. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • A tragic fish kill in Maryland is directly tied to the onslaught of polluted runoff. The kicker? Only days after the death of 200,000+ fish, the County Council where the fish kill took place voted to cut funds to reduce polluted runoff. (CBF Press StatementMD)
  • The Poultry Litter Management Act was introduced in the Maryland General Assembly this week. If passed, the bill would require big poultry companies to be responsible for the manure produced by their chickens. Currently, the manure is the responsibility of small contracted farmers. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • This year's "Bay Barometer" from the Chesapeake Bay Program reveals that the Bay is making progress in several areas, but there is still work to be done. (Daily Press—MD)
  • Rescuing empty oyster shells from the trash can saves a valuable tool in oyster restoration efforts. A county executive in Maryland wants to further incentivize oyster recycling efforts. (Capital Gazette—MD)
  • Shortly after Pennsylvania released a new plan for cleaning up the Keystone State's waterways, the EPA restored $3 million in program funding to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. (CBF Press Release—PA)
  • With Maryland and Virginia legislative sessions in full swing, there are plenty of Bay-related issues being addressed. (Bay Journal
  • Turns out that all the plastic that is landing in the ocean has extremely negative consequences for baby oysters. (Washington Post—DC)
  • We love this editorial in support of the Poultry Litter Management Act. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • A recent poll revealed that Virginians highly support funding for conservation and clean water, considering projects on these environmental issues top-spending priorities even when the state budget is tight. (Richmond Times-Dispatch—VA)
  • A program to retrieve abandoned crab pots has proved to be a worthy investment. (TakePart)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

January 16-February 6

  • Across Virginia: Help restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia's rivers by participating in CBF's Grasses for the Masses program. Participants grow wild celery, a type of underwater grass, in their homes for 10-12 weeks. After 10-12 weeks of growing, participants will gather to plant their grasses in select local rivers to bolster grass populations and help restore the Bay. Workshops are being held throughout Virginia. Click here to find one near you!

February 6

  • Salisbury, MD: Join CBF at Poultry Litter Management Act information session to learn more about this important legislation and what you can do to help. Coffee and pastries will be served! Please RSVP to Hilary Gibson at hgibson@cbf.org or 410-543-1999.

February 8-11

  • Western Shore, MD: Join us at one of our upcoming "State of the Bay" legislative briefings for an evening of information, discussion, and action. Learn about the current "State of the Bay" and your local waterways. Dive deep into the issues at play in the current session of the state General Assembly—including the Poultry Litter Management Act—and what you can do to be involved in those decisions. Information sessions are being held in Towson (2/8), Ellicott City (2/9), College Park (2/10), and Severna Park (2/11). Click here to register!

February 16

  • Annapolis, MD: The inaugural Annapolis "Save the Bay Breakfast" will feature an update on the current State of the Bay and the hottest topics affecting the future of the Bay and its rivers and streams in this year's Maryland General Assembly session. We hope you will join us and other fans and friends of the Bay for good food for the body and mind. Click here to register!

February 18

  • Richmond, VA: Join the CBF Hampton Roads office for a special "Lobby Day" in the state capital. Participate in the legislative process from the inside out. Meet your representatives, see the delegation in session and committee, and raise your voice for water quality issues in your community. Interested? Contact Tanner Council at tcouncil@cbf.org or 757-622-1964, ext. 3305.

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Cheers for Regional Stormwater Plan

The following first appeared in the York Daily Record.

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Reducing polluted runoff dramatically improve the health of local waterways. Photo by Neil Everett Osborne/iLCP.

York County has again taken the initiative to address clean water issues. Based on support from residents, the county commissioners approved moving forward with a study of how to establish a stormwater authority.

York County would join about 1,500 communities in the United States that are taking more cost-effective steps to better fund and manage polluted runoff and nuisance flooding. This often occurs in developed areas such as malls, housing developments, roads, and parking lots.  In doing so, the county will help itself and the rest of Pennsylvania get back on track toward meeting clean water commitments.

In 2010, the Bay states and the federal Environmental Protection Agency set pollution limits that would restore water quality in local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay, and each state developed its own plan to meet those limits.

The goal is to implement 60 percent of pollution reduction practices to restore local water quality in the commonwealth by 2017, and 100 percent implementation by 2025. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania will not meet its 2017 goal. Statewide, efforts to reduce nitrogen and sediment pollution from agriculture and urban polluted runoff are off track by millions of pounds.

About 350 miles of the nearly 2,000 miles of creeks, streams and the Susquehanna River that flow through York County are polluted. Agriculture is the source of pollution to 160 miles of waterways, and urban and suburban runoff is responsible for pollution in 130 miles of York County waters.

The commonwealth recently released its plan to "reboot" efforts to get Pennsylvania back on track, including addressing stormwater pollution.

Comprehensive stormwater management of the scale York County is considering offers three major advantages.  First, it allows communities to "start at the source" of the pollution problem, not just where it is showing its greatest impacts. Second, by working collaboratively communities can leverage expertise, equipment, and other resources to get the best results at the least cost. Third, pollution reduction practices that preserve and restore nature's ability to capture, filter, and infiltrate rain and snowmelt into the ground are often more effective and cost less than traditional practices. They also clean the air, reduce heating and cooling costs, and beautify communities.

With a countywide stormwater authority that addresses regular flooding from uncontrolled runoff that inflicts human, economic, and property damage, York County is again at the forefront of clean water efforts.

York County was the first county in the commonwealth to adopt the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's "Clean Water Counts" resolution, calling on state officials to make clean water a top priority for the Keystone State.

York County residents are also participating in the CBF's "Clean Water Counts – York" effort, raising their voices through phone calls and signing a petition, asking Gov. Tom Wolf and legislators to support the commonwealth's new plan to reduce water pollution.

In the spirit of intergovernmental cooperation, the York County Regional Chesapeake Bay Pollutant Reduction Plan involves 43 municipalities to better reduce pollution at lower cost.

Earlier this year, the Planning Commission finalized a countywide watershed plan that analyzes strategies and targets the pollution-reducing practices most appropriately suited for York County. The primary goal of the plan is to aid municipalities, citizens, and businesses in determining how to most efficiently reduce pollution from urban and suburban runoff.

By taking the lead in collaborative stormwater management, York County continues to demonstrate that clean water counts. It is a legacy worth leaving future generations of York countians.

—Harry Campbell, CBF Pennsylvania Executive Director

Clean water counts. Lend us your voice and urge our leaders to implement Pennsylvania's new clean water plan, and to clean up York County's rivers, streams, and swimming holes.


Water Quality Plays Key Role in Return, Survival of Bald Eagles

The following first appeared in the York Dispatch.

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A bald eagle snatching it's prey. Photo by Barbara Houston.

A new season of the Commonwealth's most popular, high-flying reality show is back online.

Millions are expected to log on to the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) website and watch as live-streaming cameras show the drama of nature at several bald eagle nests in the Keystone State. The experiences open windows onto nature like never before.

People went online more than one and a-half million times last year to see a pair of bald eagles raise two eaglets in a nest near Codorus State Park. They saw the entire process, from "nestorations" in January, laying of the eggs in February, hatching in March, and the eaglets leaving the nest in June, as it happened. This is the tenth year for the nest and the second that cameras and microphones are there.

Another popular nest is in a Hackberry tree in the town of Hays, along the Monongahela River, near Pittsburgh. The camera and sound are sponsored by the Western PA Audubon Society. This is the third season a camera has watched the nest that eagles first used in 2013. Sadly, neither of the two eggs in the Hays nest were viable last year. But the year before, three eaglets thrived and successfully left the nest.

Those who lognon to the live cameras realize quickly that waterways play a key role in the lives of bald eagles and nesting sites are never far from water. Streams, lakes, and rivers are key habitat for bald eagles. In the winter, they congregate in tall trees near open water, to spot prey and shelter at night.

Fish make up almost 90 percent of a bald eagle's diet. Is there a more majestic sight than an eagle soaring and scanning open water, swooping gracefully downward, and then with their talons, plucking prey through the water's surface?

The Codorus eagles feed fish from Lake Marburg, Codorus Creek, and other York County waterways to their young ones. Bass from the Monongahela is often on the menu at the Hays nest.

So it's no secret that the survival and recovery of bald eagles in Pennsylvania are dependent on clean water, and the availability of healthy fish and other aquatic life. It is yet another reason we must make progress in restoring the 19,000 miles of waterways in Pennsylvania that are polluted. About 350 miles of waterways in York County are impaired.

The runoff of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment is damaging our rivers and streams, and the Commonwealth is significantly behind in meeting its commitment to reduce polluted runoff.

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A screenshot of two bald eagles in their nest at Codorus State Park.

Also, consider findings of the latest multi-year study of the causes behind the deaths of young smallmouth bass, and lesions and spots on older smallmouths in the Susquehanna River. Some of those fish are served up in bald eagle nests throughout central Pennsylvania.

Endocrine-disrupting compounds and herbicides, and pathogens and parasites, are the two most-likely causes of diseased and dying fish in the Susquehanna. They are part of a perfect storm of compounds such as cosmetics, detergents, pharmaceuticals, and hormones in animal and human waste, that find their way into the diets of bald eagles and other wildlife.

On the bright side, the resurgence of bald eagles nationally and in Pennsylvania is an endangered species success story.

Habitat destruction, contaminated food sources, and illegal shooting took bald eagles to the brink of extinction. The road to recovery took major turns when the pesticide DDT was banned in 1972, and in 1978 when bald eagles were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

In 1980, there were only three known pairs of bald eagles nesting in Pennsylvania. Re-introduction began in the 1980's when the Game Commission brought 88 eaglets to the Commonwealth from Canada, raised them on specially constructed towers, and released them into the wild. Bald eagles were removed from the federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in the lower 48 states in 2007.

By 2008 the number of nesting pairs in Pennsylvania had grown to 150. In 2013 there were nests in all but a handful of Keystone State counties and more than 270 nesting pairs.

Clean water counts in Pennsylvania. It is a legacy worth leaving future generations of humans and bald eagles.

Click here to access the Codorus cameras.

Click here to access the Hays camera.

—Harry Campbell, CBF Pennsylvania Executive Director

Bald eagles, other critters, and humans alike, depend on the health of the Susquehanna River. Take action now by asking Governor Wolf and the Department of Environmental Protection to add the Lower Susquehanna to the Impaired Waters List.


This Week in the Watershed

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CBF's Fox Island Education Center with underwater grasses visible due to the high level of water clarity. Photo by Bill Portlock/CBF Staff.

One of the more obvious ways to assess the cleanliness of water is the level of water clarity. By this measure, the Chesapeake Bay is doing quite well, as throughout the Bay, water clarity is unusually high. According to Chris Moore, CBF's Virginia Senior Scientist, this is great news for the Bay's health, as, "clearer water allows more sunlight to reach the bottom of shallow areas. That helps restore underwater grasses, which provide food and habitat for crabs, fish, and other creatures."

An obvious question, of course, is why is the water so clear? While there is plenty of speculation, the likely answer resides in the dry weather this past summer and fall. Less rain has meant less runoff from farms and urban and suburban areas, leading to less phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment in the water. In addition, water clarity levels have been slowly improving throughout the watershed, as revealed in our most recent State of the Bay Report.

What's most encouraging about this water clarity is how quickly the Bay has responded to a reduction in pollution. While saving the Bay won't happen overnight, the possibility of healthy, fishable, and swimmable waters are in reach. The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is working. It's imperative we finish the job of fully implementing it.

This Week in the Watershed: Clear Water, Environmental Refugees, and Climate Change

  • From brook trout, to blue crabs, to oysters, climate change is impacting critters throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. (Richmond Times Dispatch—VA)
  • In response to the high levels of water clarity in the Chesapeake Bay, this editorial effectively argues for a greater commitment to pollution reduction. (The Virginian-Pilot—VA)
  • Ever hear of the Land and Water Conservation Fund? Though little known, it is the primary funding mechanism for the federal government to buy land for conservation purposes. With its future funding under debate, the fate of critical land holdings throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed is in jeopardy. (Bay Journal)
  • What impact can cattle have on fish? In the brook trout, we see how our raising of cattle can create an environmental refugee. (Daily Progress—VA)
  • Aquaculture is where farming and fishing collide. This dynamic makes aquaculture uniquely suited to the state of Maryland. (Southern Maryland Online—MD)
  • At first glance (or smell!), there might not be many uses for animal manure. A Frederick-based startup has a different approach. (Associated Press)
  • If you haven't seen it yet, the Chesapeake Bay is unusually clear these days. What does this news have to do with the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint? (The Virginian-Pilot—VA)

Lend Your Voice for Clean Water!

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

December 5

  • Richmond, VA: Join us at the Virginia Conversation Network's General Assembly Preview. The event will cover topics like the Virginia Coastal Protection Act and the Clean Water Rule, with Delegate Lopez as the highlighted speaker. Lunch will be provided, but space is limited. Click here to register and learn more!

December 12

  • Virginia Beach, VA: With far more requests for speaker's than we have staff or time, CBF relies on its Speaker's Bureau volunteers to handle a variety of speaking opportunities. Whether you are current on the issues and ready to share our message, or just enjoy public speaking and would like to get trained, we welcome your commitment to this important and high-profile program. Join us to learn the facts and skills to share our mission to Save the Bay with local groups and organizations. Click here to register!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Cleaner Bay Helps Offset Climate Change

The following first appeared in the Baltimore Sun earlier this week.

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Holland Island before it fell into the Bay in 2010. Sea level rise in the Chesapeake is just one dramatic consequence of climate change. Photo by Chuck Foster/CBF Staff.

The temperature of the water in the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams in many places is actually rising faster than long-term trends in the air. ("Chesapeake waters are warming, study finds, posing challenges to healing bay," Oct. 14). That points to a stark reality: As we've paved over the bay region, we've created a skillet effect for rainwater. Combined with rising air temperatures globally, we can see why rockfish and other creatures are now in the hot seat.

The good news is that cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay will actually help correct both rising air and water temperatures. Many of the steps needed to reduce water pollution will also reduce water temperature and lead directly to reductions in greenhouse gases and help minimize the effects of rising sea levels and higher temperatures.

A study by Yale University found that improving farming practices alone in the bay drainage area (only one piece of the overall plan to restore the bay) could sequester about 4.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year, the equivalent emissions of three-quarters of a million SUVs, or the entire statewide residential electricity use of New Hampshire or Delaware.

Trees planted along streams are especially cost effective for reducing both air and water pollution.

Of course, we need other efforts to reduce air pollution—not only to mitigate climate change, but to save the bay. Watershed-wide, about one-third of the nitrogen pollution in the Chesapeake comes from the air, much of it in the form of nitrogen oxides formed from the combustion of fossil fuels.

If we make personal choices to conserve electricity or drive more fuel-efficient vehicles, if business and government work to reduce power plant emissions, and if we reduce polluted runoff from our urban and suburban communities, the result will be cleaner, cooler water.

The conclusion is clear: Restoring the Chesapeake Bay also helps fight climate change. And vice versa.

—Alison Prost, CBF's Maryland Executive Director


This Week in the Watershed

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Algal blooms are increasing throughout the watershed, in part due to warming temperatures as a result of climate change. Photo by Bill Portlock/CBF Staff.

Climate change is a prototype of a truly global issue. Low-lying islands in the Pacific are being lost to sea-level rise; food supplies are threatened with record-setting droughts in Africa; beetles which were previously killed by freezing temperatures are destroying forests in the western United States. These are just a few examples among many of the impact climate change is having around the world. Add to the list: the warming waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

According to Maryland's Center for Environmental Science, water temperatures have risen on average 1.2 °F since the 1980s across more than 92 percent of the Bay and its rivers and streams. This increased temperature decreases the water's capacity to hold dissolved oxygen, exacerbating the Bay's fish-killing dead zones. The decreased oxygen squeezes fish into smaller and smaller areas of the water column, and contributes to algal blooms. Rising temperatures also stress other temperature sensitive species, such as eel grass. Added altogether, warming the Bay dramatically impacts the entire ecosystem.

Facing a problem of climate change's magnitude can quickly become overwhelming. Research shows in fact, that the immensity of the issue contributes to alarming apathy. As with most issues this large and complex, there are no silver bullet solutions. Rather, small, incremental solutions amount to significant change when brought to scale. And often, these solutions are local in nature.

A recent report highlights how fighting stormwater runoff is an effective strategy in combating climate change. Rain falling on baking asphalt and concrete, then funneling into our waterways, heats the Bay and its rivers and streams. By decreasing the amount of impervious surface and through better stormwater management, we can fight this trend, and decrease the water temperature. And perhaps not coincidentally, help clean the water as well. Talk about a win-win.

This Week in the Watershed: Warming Waters, Striped Bass, and Scooping the Poop

  • Good news for the James River, as a recent report declares it is healthier than in decades. (Daily Press—VA)
  • Microbeads, tiny plastics found in products ranging from toothpaste to cosmetics, are polluting our water supply. Pennsylvania is planning to hold a hearing on the issue after the budget impasse is resolved, potentially following Maryland's lead by passing legislation banning microbeads. (York Dispatch—PA)
  • The waters of the Chesapeake Bay are warming. If the trend continues, it could "worsen fish-suffocating dead zones and alter the food web on which the bay's fish and crabs depend." (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • A survey of juvenile striped bass in Maryland brought good news, as it found reproduction twice the long-term average. (Bay Journal)
  • Thousands of dead menhaden washed up on Virginia's Eastern Shore after a fishing accident. (Daily Press—VA)
  • ICYMI: The Richmond County Board of Supervisors voted to delay the vote on the development of Fones Cliffs. (Free Lance Star—VA)
  • Picking up after your dog might not seem like a big deal, but as this editorial reveals, dog waste has enough bacteria and viruses that it can cause serious health issues in humans. Don't forget to scoop the poop! (Frederick News-Post—MD)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

October 17

  • Keymar, MD: Help CBF plant over 800 trees and shrubs on a dairy farm in Frederick County. This stream buffer will help provide clean water in the Monocacy River Watershed. Register here!

October 18

  • Upper Marlboro, MD: Come on out to CBF's Clagett Farm for a fun-filled afternoon with friends, live music, craft-brewed beers, and mouth-watering food created by area chefs using local ingredients at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Burgers and Brews for the Bay event. Learn more and buy tickets here!

October 21

  • York, PA: A good time is to be had by all at BrewVino. Residents can meet neighbors looking to protect local waterways and learn about new opportunities to get involved in ensuring clean water, healthy communities, and a thriving economy for York County. Oh, and there will be good food! Click here to register!

October 22

  • Washington, DC: Join USGBC-NCR for "Building for Climate Resilience: Adaptions and Strategies." Part of USGBC-NCR's lead-up to Greenbuild Voices on Resilience Campaign, this event will feature a panel of expert practitioners discussing real-world examples of projects designed and engineered to withstand our changing environment. Click here to learn more!

October 23

  • Easton, MD: CBF's Maryland Eastern Shore office is moving! Join us at our new building, the Eastern Shore Conservation Center. Building tours and light refreshments will be provided, and CBF Eastern Shore staff will be present to visit with you as we celebrate the new space with partners and friends in the community. Click here for more info!

October 24

  • Baltimore, MD: Join us at the Great Baltimore Oyster Festival to celebrate the mighty oyster while enjoying five varieties of oysters, specialty foods, boat tours, music, and more! Hosted by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Waterfront Partnership, and Healthy Harbor. Online registration is closed, but still come on out! Entry to the event is free, and oyster plates will be available for purchase on-site. Click here for more info!
  • Queen Anne's County, MD: Come paddle with us on Southeast Creek, just off the Chester River. Southeast Creek is a prime example of a healthy tidal Eastern Shore creek, replete with large expanses of tidal marsh, abundant wildlife dominated by various species of bird life, and a watershed consisting mainly of farmland. The paddle is comfortable and peaceful, offering up close views of herons fishing in the shallows and wood ducks nesting in the many trees along the banks. Click here to register!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Appreciating Fall Foliage after the Color Is Gone

The following first appeared in the York Daily Record.

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Putting fallen leaves to work is good for plants and properties, and contributes to the health of Pennsylvania waterways. Photo by Kelly O’Neill/CBF Staff.

The Commonwealth's northern tier is enjoying the season's burst of color as fall foliage reaches its peak there by mid-October. The palette will sweep southward, sharing its vibrancy with the rest of Pennsylvania as temperatures continue to cool and days grow shorter toward the end of the month.

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) boasts that the Keystone State, with its 134 species of trees, has a longer and more varied fall foliage season than anywhere else in the world.

Folks travel for miles to marvel at the splendor of the changing leaves. There are ways to further appreciate what fall foliage offers, after it falls in our own neighborhoods.

Putting leaves to work is good for plants and properties, and contributes to the health of Pennsylvania waterways.

The Commonwealth is significantly behind in its clean water commitments and must accelerate its reduction of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment runoff into rivers and streams and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.

Urban/suburban runoff of pollutants is the third-leading cause of impairment to 19,000 miles of Pennsylvania waters; behind agricultural runoff and acid mine drainage respectively.

Trees play a key role in defending clean water by filtering pollution and absorbing runoff.

Making the most of fall leaves around the home and other properties can reduce the amount of fertilizers needed and enhance soil absorption, reducing the amount of runoff that carries harmful pollutants into waterways.

Autumn leaves are some of the best organic matter, are packed with trace minerals that trees draw from the soil, and can be a powerful benefit around the home.

Healthy compost is a valuable and plentiful alternative fertilizer and soil enhancement for flower beds and gardens. Leaves are an effective component of compost, which also reuses grass clippings, food and yard waste, and other natural ingredients. Carbon-rich leaves add balance to nitrogen-rich elements like fresh grass clippings.

Shredded leaves are multi-purpose. Shredding leaves reduces the volume, creates more surfaces for microbes to work, and more easily loosens the soil when worked into the garden. This invites earthworms and other organisms that are beneficial to productive soil. Shredding and mulching is as easy as piling leaves up and driving over them a few times with the lawnmower.

Against winter wind and cold, a six-inch blanket of leaves can protect tender plants. Some gardeners use leaves to insulate sensitive dahlia, iris, and other bulbs left in the winter garden.

Making "leaf mold" by simply raking leaves into pile is a low-maintenance process for augmenting soil quality. Shredding leaves allows them to decompose faster, but is not a requirement for good leaf mold. Over the period of a few years, fungus breaks the leaves down into a special compost that is high in calcium and magnesium. It also retains three to five times its weight in water.

To enhance your fall foliage experience, the DCNR website offers a weekly fall foliage map and reports, an explanation of why autumn leaves change color, and state forest maps with directions. After they've fallen, make the most of them.

Clean water counts in all seasons, and for many Pennsylvanians, fall is their favorite time of year. Putting leaves to work to reduce polluted runoff can extend our appreciation of fall foliage long after the color is gone.

—Harry Campbell, CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director

Are you a resident of Pennsylvania? Make your voice heard, and tell your County Commissioners to pass a resolution saying Clean Water Counts in Pennsylvania!


Polluted Runoff Fees Help Fight Local Issues

The following first appeared in The Sentinel.

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Polluted runoff from agriculture and urban/suburban sources, are the first and third leading causes of impairment to roughly 19,000 miles of rivers and streams in Pennsylvania. Photo by Krista Schlyer/iLCP.

Hampden Township is the latest Pennsylvania municipality to address its flooding and clean water problems by implementing a polluted runoff fee, and asking residents to be part of the solutions.

Hampden Township is not alone. There are over 1,550 municipalities in the United States with similar fees, and local governments across the Commonwealth are lining up to implement their own. Philadelphia, Lancaster, Hazleton, Mt. Lebanon and Radnor townships, and Jonestown Borough have already instituted polluted runoff fees.

Polluted runoff fees are also referred to as stormwater fees, or the silly "rain tax." The term is deceptive, and downright inaccurate. While "rain tax" makes for a catchy headline, the term obscures real problems and derails honest discussions about how to fix them.

By any name, the stormwater fee is not a tax on rain, but a fee based on the amount of polluted runoff that impervious surfaces like roofs, streets, and parking lots generate and then shuttle into municipally-owned storm sewers. From there, it's often sent directly to the nearest river or stream, carrying with it dirt, garbage, animal waste, oils, lawn chemicals and other pollutants into streams and rivers, threatening drinking water.

Regular flooding from uncontrolled runoff inflicts human, economic, and property damage, which affects hundreds of communities across the Commonwealth.

For municipalities, the revenue is a local solution to local problems.

Hampden Township has more than 75 miles of storm pipes and 250 outfalls that must be inspected and maintained. Stormwater pipes in the area are failing in six locations and causing erosion. The township hopes to remedy flooding issues in at least one area.

The Cumberland County municipality of 30,000 expects the fee to generate about $1.5 million annually. Funds will be used primarily to comply with clean water laws, for new and improved stormwater infrastructure, and to meet planning and reporting mandates.

Revenues from runoff fees are usually dedicated to the stormwater authority, and used only for polluted runoff issues within the municipality.

Polluted runoff fees also tend make management of runoff more equitable, in that they relieve taxpayers from bearing the entire burden. Because it is not a tax, the fee provides that tax-exempt properties pay their fair share. Hampden Township has $1 billion in tax exempt real estate. John V. Thomas, vice president of the Hampden Township Board of Commissioners, says taxes would have to be increased by 30 percent to offset potential income collected from the Navy base and West Shore Hospital alone.

Rates vary with the municipality and many, like Hampden Township, offer fee reductions if homeowners or businesses build rain gardens, plant trees, or install rain barrels on their property.

Each Hampden residence, for example, will pay a fee of $13.25 per quarter, based on the average amount of hard surface for area homes. The rate for larger, non-residential properties will be scaled upward relative to their amount of impervious surfaces and the amount of runoff they create.

Polluted runoff from agriculture and urban/suburban sources, are the first and third leading causes of impairment to roughly 19,000 miles of rivers and streams in Pennsylvania. The Commonwealth is perilously behind its clean water goals. Measures funded by polluted runoff fees are among those that can get us back on track.

Clean water counts. Polluted runoff fees are an investment in solving our own local problems. It makes sense that we kick-in our fair share to clean up polluted runoff and to reduce flooding of our streets, basements, and backyards.

—Harry Campbell, CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director


Part Two: From Sandbags to Black-Eyed Susans at Christ Our King Presbyterian Church

This is the second part in a series about how a Bel Air community tackled the problem of polluted runoff together. Click here to read part one.

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Rain gardens, like the ones installed at Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Harford County, Maryland, filter rainwater and prevent eroded sediment and nutrient runoff from entering the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

We applied for and received a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust to assist in the purchase of native vegetation, and Christ Our King's administration provided significant donations of time, money, and supplies. As rain gardens provide beautiful, effective ways to mitigate polluted stormwater, our team designed and installed two rain gardens that converted 1,200 square feet of turf grass to beds of sand/soil mixture growing 16 species of native shrubs and perennials.

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More than 60 volunteers, including Christ Our King members, a local Cub Scout pack, and interested citizens in the Harford County area came together to build rain gardens. And more than 400 native perennials and shrubs were planted to provide habitat for wildlife, filter excess nutrients and sediment, and prevent erosion on the property.

During a rain event, water temporarily collects on the garden surface, then soaks into the soil, removing pollutants and preventing erosion as it does. Native plants in the garden require little maintenance, provide habitat for local wildlife, and prevent toxins from reaching groundwater. Our rain gardens capture runoff from 4,000 square feet of roof and treat more than 2,300 gallons of polluted runoff during a one-inch rain event. That's more than eight tons of water! The water in the rain gardens infiltrates within 24 hours and alleviates flooding in the stormwater management pond

In addition, gutters around the parish house roof funnel collect 1,500 gallons of clean rainwater into a rain harvesting cistern for landscape maintenance. These cisterns help water nine vegetable garden beds that support families in the congregation. Catching rainwater this way protects the rain gardens during extreme storms.

Moreover, this water keeps the landscaping and gardens productive and reduces the Parish's need for municipal water. When a rains storm occurs, the first quarter of an inch of water collects the highest concentration of bacteria and debris from the roof. This "first flush" of polluted water enters the gutter system, where a diverter and filter system directs it to the rain gardens, helping to keep the cistern clean, and lessening maintenance demands.

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Community members installed a 1,500-gallon cistern that stores clean rainwater for the vegetable beds and flower gardens at Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland. Cisterns and rain barrels are an excellent alternative to municipal water for watering plants or even washing cars.

This coordinated series of best management practices has alleviated the flooding and erosion issues on the property associated with polluted stormwater runoff. Together, they provide a wildlife corridor for local pollinators like bees, butterflies, and birds. Hummingbirds have been visiting the gardens' bee balm and cardinal flower for nectar, and many bee species buzz around the black-eyed susans and mistflower for pollen. The Sunday school classes and the youth group created interpretive signage to educate visitors about how the rain gardens and cistern are helping to alleviate polluted runoff. The youngest volunteers even converted parts of scrap wooden pallets into garden markers.

And what happened to the sand bags? 

We used their contents to make up the soil mix for the rain gardens. Christ Our King Presbyterian may be only one church, but our project has greatly benefited our common property as well as Bynum and Winters Runs. We hope our experience will inspire and inform other churches to take on similar projects for the benefit of God's Creation.

—Julia Poust, Chesapeake Conservation Corps Volunteer


Part One: From Sandbags to Black-Eyed Susans at Christ Our King Presbyterian Church

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Polluted runoff from storms is a major source of water pollution in Harford County.

In all of Maryland's political fights over stormwater runoff pollution (remember the "rain tax"?), there was precious little conversation about the local benefits that county programs would bring. Nor did opponents ever admit that most of those programs included significant incentives for local people to join with their county governments to help solve issues like flooding. Here's the story of one of those local projects that benefited both a local waterway and its people.

Harford County, between Baltimore and the Susquehanna River, was one of the jurisdictions that objected to polluted runoff fees. Despite its long and proud history of agriculture, including preservation of close to 50,000 acres through state easements that protect that land from commercial and residential development, its relative proximity to Baltimore is driving up suburban population growth. The agricultural easements have actually concentrated most of the county's growth in the I-95 corridor and along Route 24, which crosses the interstate in the watersheds of Bynum Run and Winters Run to serve the county seat of Bel Air.

Both streams flow to the Bush River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay's upper Western Shore. The Bush offers habitat for waterfowl, blue crabs, yellow perch, white perch, rockfish, largemouth bass, and juvenile menhaden, but sediment runoff from developed land is rapidly filling its tidal wetlands and channels.

The Bynum Run watershed is now heavily urbanized, becoming one of the most densely populated areas in Harford County. In fact, 70 percent of the total area is covered by impervious surfaces such as paved roads, driveways, and parking lots. The Maryland Department of the Environment has listed Bynum Run as a biologically impaired waterway, damaged by channelization and smothered by sediment.

As a lifelong Harford County resident, I have witnessed stormwater flowing off our rooftops, over our lawns and pavement, down storm drains, and directly into our nearest waterway. When rain events occur, water polluted with sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus, flows so fast that it disturbs both the bottom and the banks of the streambed, further eroding those banks and destroying habitat for the vegetation, macroinvertebrates (insect larvae), and fish that are native to the stream ecosystem.

As this year's Chesapeake Conservation Corps volunteer for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, I decided to focus my capstone project on protecting local stream health and working in my community to promote stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  My first thought was to work with my church, Christ Our King Presbyterian Church—a medium-sized congregation, straddling both the Bynum Run and Winters Run watersheds. Throughout the 16 years of attending Sunday school, youth group, vacation bible school, and regular services at Christ Our King, I have experienced first-hand the detrimental effects stormwater has on its property.

When founded 50 years ago, Christ Our King included a single building with a small parking lot. Jump to 2015: The parish has grown to more than 500 members and gone through two building expansions, significantly increasing the cumulative area of its rooftops and parking lot. The rest of the property is turf grass, broken by one grove of trees. During this growth, channeling the roof gutters directly into a stormwater management pond was the common practice to handle surface runoff, but it only intensified the volume and velocity of runoff entering the pond.

But for the past few years, the pond has not been able to handle the volume of an average rain event, frequently flooding the lower level classrooms and activity hall, and a neighbor's property. Like preparing for a hurricane, our only defense has been lining walkways with sandbags to protect the building against the overflowing pond. To combat the stormwater issues, some fellow Christ Our King members and I set about planning and installing a series of best management practice techniques to protect our church and lessen the pollution load entering the Bynum Run watershed.

The church is Bay-Wise-certified through the University of Maryland Master Gardeners' Program. Our Care of Creation Committee focuses on environmental stewardship, enhancing sustainable landscape practices, and raising awareness in the community of how local actions affect the Chesapeake Bay and the wider world.

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CBF's Doug Myers discusses how to support a healthy Chesapeake Bay with residents of Harford County.

The Care of Creation Committee holds an annual Earth Day Celebration, which this year featured an open discussion about local stream health and overall issues affecting the Chesapeake Bay. Doug Myers, senior scientist in the CBF's Maryland Office, led the session. Twenty local community members attended, including representatives from Christ Our King, the Master Gardener Program, the Senior Science Society of Harford Community College, and CBF members.

Many of the congregation's members live in single-family detached houses in suburban communities that lie along tributaries leading to the Gunpowder, Bush, and Susquehanna Rivers. Volunteers understand that polluted runoff from impervious surfaces and agricultural practices are responsible for the existing pollution problem in local waterways. They also have remarked that there is not a lot of public knowledge on how well local governments and individual citizens are fulfilling their responsibility for protecting water quality in the area. My goal was to provide the community with the necessary tools and hands-on experience needed to create rain gardens and other Bay-friendly practices in their own neighborhoods.

—Julia Poust, Chesapeake Conservation Corps Volunteer

Click here to continue the story on how Julia was able to tackle polluted runoff at her Bel Air Church.